Montana Public Radio

Montana Natural History Center

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) in Potts Grove, Pennsylvania, USA. Female on nest.
Flickr user, Audrey. (CC-BY 2.0)

While glancing out my window the other day, I noticed a killdeer in my neighbor’s unpaved gravel driveway. I was reminded of the first time that I noticed a killdeer when I was a child. As I was walking up our gravel driveway, my attention was drawn to a killdeer in distress. The bird appeared to have a broken wing. Insistently and loudly repeating its name in call, it staggered forward, hugging the ground, with one of its wings distended as if broken.

Geralt-Pixabay

I consider myself to be a fairly normal human. Ten fingers, ten toes, two ears. Made up of thousands of different cells. Oh, and of all the cells in and on my body, the human cells are outnumbered tenfold by bacterial cells.

The Gall Of Aspens: Poplar Twig Gall Flies

Apr 12, 2020
Poplar twig galls
Eli Sagor (CC BY-NC 2.0)

"Is not disease the rule of existence? There is not a lily pad floating on the river but has been riddled by insects. Almost every shrub and tree has its gall, oftentimes esteemed its chief ornament and hardly to be distinguished from the fruit. If misery loves company, misery has company enough. Now, at midsummer, find me a perfect leaf or fruit." - Henry David Thoreau, journal entry, September 1851

The Teamwork Of Late Winter: Bird Flocks

Apr 5, 2020
A Bohemian waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) puffs its feathers, April 2011, Glacier National Park, MT
David Restivo, National Park Service. (PD)

Except when mating and nesting, bohemian and cedar waxwings are simply highly social birds. They seek food and water supplies large enough for the entire flock. They will sometimes dispatch a few birds at a time out of a larger flock to a food source, rather than allow a frenzied competition of individuals.

Jupiter and one of it 79 moons, Io, whose shadow eclipsed the sun, September 2019
Pixabay

As I get my first view through the eyepiece, I am met by a dazzling brightness. I am now looking not up but down onto the cloud tops of another world. My eye adjusts to the bright image and I begin to perceive the tan belts and gray wisps of the stormy Jovian atmosphere. Then I see it. It is what I had hoped to witness tonight, and it explains why only three of Galileo's moons are visible.

The Raven's Labor-Saving Device: A Squirrel

Mar 15, 2020
common raven
Alexas Fotos (Pixabay)

Staring out a window while avoiding my to-do list for the day, a squirrel and a raven presented me with a peculiar sight. I observed the squirrel going from spot to spot, digging up seeds in the snow with a raven following close behind. As the squirrel worked its way through the snow, the raven would follow it and move in to inspect the squirrel’s findings. The raven had realized that a squirrel digging through the snow means food, and it was using the squirrel as its personal food finder.

Hibernating ladybugs (Coccinellidae)
Flickr user, Jason (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Every autumn I begin to wonder: where do all the bugs go? Unlike people, and other warm-blooded critters that can maintain a consistent internal temperature, insects cannot. So, you might wonder, what do insects do to survive the cold?

Snow-Making 101

Mar 1, 2020
Flickr user, Dawn Perry (CC-BY-NC-2.0)

Few things brighten a typical Montana winter day like a little snowfall. Right when you feel that you can't take another grey day, a couple of inches of heaven fall to raise your spirits. But just how do these floating flakes come to be? Snow obviously comes from clouds, but not just any cloud.

How To Eat Lunch, Not Be Lunch: Safety In Numbers

Feb 23, 2020
Ryan Hagerty, U.S.F.W.S.

Horses, bighorn sheep and mule deer all coming together in the same place, using the same trails. What is so special about this place? This little patch of ground, where trails converge, is where the need to avoid predators comes into balance with the need to eat.

River otters in winter
Flickr user, USFWSMidwest (CC-BY-2.0)

What happens to otters in winter when the lake is frozen, I wondered. Does the family stay together or disperse? Do otters have any special survival strategies to get through the cold times?

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